He Is We sexual assault allegations: Macy Santa Maria, Rachel Taylor release statements
Former He Is We touring guitarist Macy Santa Maria published a statement on her Facebook today alleging He Is We frontwoman Rachel Taylor sexually assaulted her while on tour.
We spoke to Santa Maria and Taylor about the accusations.
UPDATE, JUNE 28, 2019: He Is We singer Rachel Taylor found not guilty of sexual assault allegations
He Is We’s tour kicked off Aug. 18 in Minneapolis, and after the second day, the band announced via Facebook that the tour had been called off. By Aug. 24, Santa Maria and fellow touring members Wes Chamberlain and Ben McBride shared the same statement on Twitter, explaining that the situation wasn’t “physically or emotionally” safe.
In her post, Santa Maria explains that she was assaulted by Taylor and thanks fellow members for supporting her during that time.
“I had the opportunity to do what I love this past summer and play guitar for the band He Is We, but unfortunately it was short-lived. The night before the first show, I was sexually assaulted by the lead singer Rachel Taylor,” Santa Maria writes in her Facebook statement.
“I have contemplated sharing my story and have decided to share it on my own in hopes to raise awareness of sexual assault, specifically in the music industry. My objective is shed a little light on sexual assault, that a man or WOMAN is capable of committing.”
You can read her statement in full below.
I had the opportunity to do what I love this past summer and play guitar for the band He Is We, but unfortunately it was short-lived. The night before the first show, I was sexually assaulted by the lead singer Rachel Taylor. I have contemplated sharing my story and have decided to share it on my own in hopes to raise awareness of sexual assault, specifically in the music industry. My objective is shed a little light on sexual assault, that a man or WOMAN is capable of committing. Rachel Taylor has ruined a part me and for her to have the opportunity to hide from this and continue her music career is disgusting. This is something I’m not going to hide from, and neither should anyone facing this issue.
This was a situation that was instigated by Rachel and she is solely to blame. She was the one who got violently drunk and began to grab me. She was the one who continued the inappropriate behavior no matter how many times I said stop or took her hands off of me, she is the reason why we had to stop touring and she is the reason I feel sick on a regular basis. What she did was not okay and should not be tolerated. The morning after it happened I just tried to push it out of my mind because it was the first day of tour and I was just focused on doing my job. By the second day of tour, it was at the forefront of my mind and all I could think about. It was then I decided to speak up about how I felt.
After I spoke up about how uncomfortable I was with what had happened, band mates Wes Chamberlain and Ben McBride quickly jumped into action to keep Rachel and I separated and to make sure I was okay. Once informed of the situation, the booking agent Bobby Hendrix quickly pulled He Is We from the tour and worked with me to get a flight home. Wes, Ben and Bobby did everything right and are not to be blamed for this at all. They did everything in their power to take care of me in the most vulnerable and distraught state that I’ve ever been in and I am so thankful to have them in my life. I really don't know what I would have done without them. Wes, Ben, Bobby and Adamm Mitchell (guitarist and producer) have all separated themselves from He Is We and associated artists have been warned about this behavior.
Just for clarification, I never initially wanted to leave the tour. I never said or expressed in any way that I wanted to leave the tour prior to this incident. Playing music and touring is something that I’m really passionate about and I never wanted to stop doing that. I also did not receive any financial compensation for this. I had to buy my own flight home and was only paid for the two drive days and two show days that were completed. I did asked to be compensated for my flight home home because that was in the original pay agreement and I ask to be compensated for the rest of the tour because I had to quit my job to do this and never heard back. I let it go because I am not looking for money out of this.
There is a police case open on this, an OOP is out and I also reached out to a publication company to cover the story, but because it is such a sensitive topic that gives me so much anxiety I have decided to release my statement on my own first. I’m also doing this to clear the names of my fellow bandmates Ben and Wes. They have done nothing wrong no matter how much Rachel has spoken negatively of them or accused then of any false wrongdoing. They stood up and did the right thing and I am insanely proud of them. Again, I am not looking for money, “15 minutes of fame” or anything else other than telling the truth.
I was considering not saying anything at all because I wanted to keep touring, but I couldn’t stand how I felt. People are hesitant to speak up about abuse in the music industry because of the fear of losing their job. That should never be an issue standing in front of doing the right thing. The only way we’re going to see that change is if we speak up. Finding statistics for women sexually assaulting women was near impossible. The only one I could find was for women sexually assaulting women in prison and that was 4% (“How Often Do Women Rape Men?”, 2016). Women do sexually assault people and we need to end the stigma around that. That needs to be known.
She has been trying to sweep this under the rug since it happened and if you feel as passionately about this as I do, do not let that happen. Please share and tag larger sources if you feel comfortable doing so.
Also If you have been a victim of sexual assault there are some resources listed below. My door is always open too.
A Voice For The Innocent - http://www.avoicefortheinnocent.org
Anti Violence Project (serves LGBT) - https://avp.org
Hotline - 212.714.1124
Punk Talks - https://www.punktalks.org
National Sexual Assault Hotline - 800.656.4673
National Sexual Violence Resource Center - https://www.nsvrc.org
Santa Maria spoke to AP about the alleged situation and why she decided to speak out now. See what she had to say below.
Why did you decide to speak out now? What were your hesitations?
I decided to speak up to shed light on the topic. When my assault happened, Taylor Swift had just won her sexual assault lawsuit and that gave me hope in my situation. I hope this can be that for others. Personally, I knew I would not feel better for a long time if I didn’t say something. This happened a little over a month ago and I waited to emotionally heal, get my head back on straight and make sure I was legally safe if she retaliated against me.
You say that you wanted to share your story to raise awareness of sexual assault, particularly in the music industry. How often do you think this happens? Are people too afraid to say anything for personal and/or professional reasons?
I think this occurs a lot more often than reported. It’s a difficult topic to talk about because it’s so heavy and sometimes just as traumatic to rehash the memory. When this happens in your professional endeavors, there’s this feeling that your assaulter holds your career in their hands. They definitely do not! When you speak up, your relationship with that artist is obviously ruined, but that’s a good thing! You wouldn’t want to be associated with someone who thinks that behavior is okay.
You explain that you weren't initially going to say anything because you wanted to keep touring. How did you think it would affect your career?
I knew that the tour was going to end or I would be sent home once I said something, which in that point in time, I was ready to come home. From this point on, I honestly don’t know how this is going to affect my career in music. I know that it is going to deter people who condone this kind of behavior from working with me, and I am very okay with that! I am always going pursue my passion for music and touring no matter what and I am hoping for the best.
Overall, you really wanted to shed light on the fact that sexual assault is something men and women are capable of committing, explaining there are very few statistics for women sexually assaulting other women. Why do you think that might be? What do you feel are the best steps to be done to change that stigma?
It’s a violating and disparaging thing, and for some reason some people can’t believe that a certain gender can commit it. There’s a shame that’s connected to sexual assault, and a woman may feel that shame because the situation doesn’t align with her sexual orientation. Being gay, I never personally experienced that form of shame from this situation, but I am a person so I do understand what consent is and the difference between right and wrong. Take the labels away and just see that this is a human hurting another human. I can only speak from my experience with this and confidently say that my reaction to this would be the same no matter if it were a man or woman. It’s easier said than done, but my advice is to treat the situation for what it is, no matter the gender of the person.
What do you think should be done to make it easier for people in similar situations to feel comfortable enough to share their story?
Everyone just needs to be more understanding and respectful of this topic. I didn’t have control of that situation, but I’m controlling what comes out of it and that’s a good feeling. I don’t feel completely better and probably won’t for a while, but sharing this is almost therapeutic and facing this head-on is helping me heal.
What do you think needs to change to make the touring world a safer place?
Again, everyone just needs to be more understanding and respectful of this topic. Some advice I can give is to trust your gut when it comes to feeling safe on the road. It’s easy to get swept up in the “it’s a tour, I’ll do it!” mentality. If you don’t feel safe, communicate that to the people around you: your crew, the TM, the manager, other bands on the tour, the venue staff or, if needed, the police. How you feel about what’s happening around you is completely valid, so trust it.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, there are some resources listed below. My door is always open, too.
AP reached out to a detective at the Stutsman County Police Department, who is unable to comment on the case at the time as it is an ongoing investigation.
Taylor has since responded on Facebook, denying the accusations.
“Although I personally am not a lesbian or bisexual, I have always fought on behalf of the LGBT community and those who've been a survivor of sexual violence,” she writes. “In no way, shape or form would I ever even remotely do a thing to another person to hurt or make them uncomfortable.”
Read her full statement below.
Never would I have believed I'd be here writing a statement like this. But here it goes…
This tour was with the members of She Is We and we had hired a new guitar player. I was told that said person was homesick after they'd been acting distant. I was then told that said person no longer wanted to tour by another bandmate who was hired to play the tour. I was then asked for money or there would be a statement made public. I still had absolutely no clue what was happening nor what kind of statement would be made. Nothing had been said to me nor made any sense whatsoever. All I had known is that this individual was jumping off the tour, asked to be paid for the entirety of the tour, and then only agreed to play the final show if said person could pick the songs. By the time I was taken to the hotel (still not knowing what was taking place), my account had been emptied and the vehicle rented in my name had been taken back to Washington state.
For the first time in my entire life, I knew what it felt like to be robbed of, not only finances, but of my character. Although I personally am not a lesbian or bisexual, I have always fought on behalf of the LGBT community and those who've been a survivor of sexual violence. In no way, shape or form would I ever even remotely do a thing to another person to hurt or make them uncomfortable. I have a 19 year old sister who means the world to me and a best friend of over 15 years who came out in a private school, who I defended through the years, is more than enough to show that I am a big sister and an advocate for love and equality. My job on tour is to ensure that everyone understands they're part of a family bigger than themselves and I have never been met with such evil intent in my close to 10 years of doing this.
As someone who has conquered great demons, I wouldn't wish any pain or anguish on others. The fact that I was immediately asked for money, before knowing what was stacked against me, shook me to the core. I'm not a lesbian. I'm not bisexual. I'm not violent. I couldn't even begin to describe the love I've always had for the underdog in scenarios.
I AM a fighter for those who feel silenced and I will NOT be painted to be anything other than who I am. I am an advocate against character slander, bullying, judgmental minds, and those who kick us when we are down.
I have zero idea as to why any allegation was made and money was asked for. I will always promote a safe work environment and I was never given any reason to believe it was anything other than that. If I had known that there was ANYTHING offensive or out of line, it certainly would've been handled. I will always be a champion for equality for all. That is what the name He Is We means. I will remain steadfast and resolute to what the name means. I am confused and hurt that anyone would make such a despicable accusation. I will continue to be an example of leading the fight on.
Taylor spoke to AP about her side of the story. See what she had to say below.
Taking it back to August, when the tour was kicking off, what was happening?
TAYLOR: So, we were freaking stoked. Icarus Account were our brothers from MySpace and PureVolume. So when we got the opportunity to tour with them, I brought on the She Is We guys and one of my buddies, Adamm Mitchell. Macy was recommended by the guy who managed the tour. I didn’t really know her all too well. She had been a guitar player for a band that was opening for the last tour. As far as I knew, she was about my sister’s age, but talented. We all met up at the She Is We drummer’s house. We were practicing, and everything was going really well. She was talking about a girl she was excited to see on the tour, and I told her, “Dude, if anyone gives you problems on the road for being gay especially when we go to Utah and stuff like that, people can be cruel, to let me know.” She was my workout buddy before the tour and we worked out—running up the stairs, circuit training, we even got Ben onboard. Everyone was working out. It was awesome. The one thing that I have always prided myself on is making sure that regardless of who’s involved, everyone a) feels safe, b) feels like they’re a part of the family and c) can talk about anything and communicate.
We’re on the road and it’s the second day, and all of a sudden things got kind of warped. Before we even got to the first hotel, I had asked permission because generally we’ll split a room, and the girls will have a queen-sized bed and the guys will share a queen-sized bed, and if anyone is either a snorer or something like that, we’ll get a sleeping bag and put it in the middle instead. Because she was new to the family, I had asked for permission [to share a bed]. I had let her know that my best friend growing up, when she came out in a private school, I saw the hardships. I understood the pain of that, and I’m not a lesbian. I’m not bisexual. I don’t know that hardship, but I saw my best friend go through it. Asking permission was one of the big things that I knew I wanted to do for her.
So asked permission, granted permission and out of nowhere, we show up to the second show and I was told she was homesick. I had asked the guys, “Is everything okay?” because generally, I’m the maternal one. I’m the one that will want to talk it out, have a conversation. At the end of the day, I hadn’t done anything inappropriate, nor was there anything communicated that something inappropriate had taken place. At that point, I was like, “What on Earth is going on?” As far as I had seen, she was on Wes’ lap, she was piggyback riding and all these things. Like I said, I’ve always been an advocate for victims of any kind of hate crime, [the] LGBT community and again, wanted to make sure everything was okay. If this was a scenario that something had gone on with the girls he wanted to see or if she really was homesick, I wanted to make sure everyone was safe. I’d noticed that she had disappeared and the only person she talked to at that point in time was Wes, so I didn’t know if it was something that— again, all that was communicated to me was that she was homesick. So, as the show grew closer and closer, I wasn’t told anything. And when I had asked and when I had texted, “What’s going on here,” nothing was told to me. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.
So you weren’t sure what was going on at that point?
Not at all. The thing that really started to irk me was, I was then notified—again, before knowing anything—before the second show, I was asked for money. And when I say money, I was asked that I pay this girl for the entirety of the tour, or she would make a statement, and I had asked, “Of what?” Again, not knowing what was going on. And so I started asking my guys, “What is going on?” And at that point, I was told, “I will not play the show unless I get to pick the songs,” and again, this is all through “he said, she said.” This is Wes letting me know that she will not play the show unless she can pick the songs, and I had no idea still—and there are texts, everything—no clue what’s going on. This is an hour before the show. I had tried to get a hold of the tour manager, and what I was being told was absolutely nothing. So at that point, I was told that I was going to be paying for her flight home, and I was going to be paying her for the entirety of the tour. When I had asked why, again, I was met with, “Rather not say. Rather not say.” So, from that point, we had played the show, and I went to the Icarus Account guys and I was like, “Hey, it appears that the guitar player is leaving the tour. As far as I know, she’s homesick.” So they agreed to play the rest of the tour with me. By the time I had let the manager know, I was notified that the entire tour was done and again, I was screaming my face off and I was saying, “What is going on?” I had done nothing wrong, and I told them this. I was like, “I don’t know what I had done wrong.” I didn’t know if it was her, if it was Wes, if it was Ben. I had invested thousands and thousands of dollars into this tour, and by the time I had gotten to the hotel room, all of my accounts, the cash had been taken. The accounts had been completely emptied for the tour. The vehicle I had rented, the guys had taken all the way back to Washington. It had the merchandise, it had everything in it. I was left with $150, so what ended up happening was—again, I was contacting the manager, everything—I threatened to call the police. Again, I had no idea what was going on. I mean, Wes and Ben were my friends. They had gone through the ringer with me, and all of this had gone down, they weren’t talking. I was losing it. It didn’t make any sense, no one would say anything, and then finally, a detective called. I asked him, “Listen, before we do anything, I need to know what the allegation is.” The allegation was not sexual assault. It was not even sexual harassment. It was that I had poked her butt while we were sleeping. That was the allegation.
I explained to him what had happened to the accounts, and the reason I am talking to you is because I do not want you guys in the center of false news and extortion, and that’s what’s going on. In no way, shape or form would I ever intentionally touch a person’s butt, especially on tour. It’s because of allegations like this that people I advocate for aren’t taken seriously. It’s why law enforcement officers and detectives have to look at these allegations and sometimes just put their hands up and go, “You know what? Sorry.” The fact of the matter is, I’m burning with anger because I look at a scenario like this where someone like myself who is an advocate for not just LGBT, but for people who have survived traumatic events. I would never harm anyone, especially because of the things I have been through and the things I have gone through side by side with the fans. To make an allegation of—she [is] saying it’s sexual assault and not understanding what sexual assault is. Me touching her butt in a queen-sized bed in a hotel and in my sleep, in no way, shape or form, would have been done a) intentionally or b) with sexual intent. Again, I’m not gay. It’s a really sad argument that I have to even say, “I’m not gay.” Because the fact of the matter is it comes back to the rape culture. “I wasn’t that this. I wasn’t that.” It sickens me, and the fact that she asked for money, that was what was asked, and the guys had taken the vehicle that I had paid for and the accounts were emptied. If I did anything whatsoever to offend someone, I would’ve wanted to know. That way, there would’ve been a chance to face this allegation and talk to her and see where she’s coming from and have that conversation where I can make it right to her and apologize if I had made her uncomfortable in any way, shape or form. I was never told. There was no allegation that was made to me. I was kept in the dark. The money was taken. She had never spoken to me. The only time I had ever had her name said to me was when I was asked for money.
To be honest, this was a petty PR stunt; this is a petty attempt at slander. Just talking again with the detective, as soon as I told him the PayPal accounts and everything had been emptied, the cash had been taken, the vehicle had been taken, that was the first thing I was told and notified of. What I had found out from a statement that had been made by the band was that they have a band now that they are attempting to launch. This is happening all at the same time. Tour: Done. All of this starts happening, I find out the money’s gone. Now there’s a band they’re trying to launch. The moment this gets published, this is where they start launching...
All I can do is continue to be that person that I’ve been. Money really does make things complicated. I’ll continue to defend where I stand with this. I will continue to be an advocate for the LGBT community and for sexual assault victims, and be an advocate of rights regardless of the dirty things that are happening to me currently. Now, looking at it from the outside and understanding now why people are unable to truly be heard is because of stuff like this. All I can do is continue to be that advocate and lead the fight on.
We will keep you updated as the story develops.